Quality interview from the April 2 edition of The Jim Rome Show with Trail Blazers starting center Robin Lopez. In the interview, Lopez talks about his birthday celebration, which ride at Disneyland is his favorite, naming all Seven Dwarfs, fitting in as a Portlander, doubting himself after a back injury in Phoenix, the Goonies and being “weird as hell.” There’s also a little basketball in there as well. Lopez also answers a question about Tiger Woods needing a discectomy that I’m fairly certain Lopez misheard as “vasectomy” given the nature of his answer.
It sounds like you had an amazing birthday. You got a double-double, you beat the Lakers, Emmy Rossum was sitting courtside and you went to Disneyland. Was that the best birthday you’ve ever had?
It’s up there. It’s up there. I haven’t had any other celebrity show up on my birthday, so I think it’s going to have to be number one for right now.
It sounds like you had a day. Let me ask you about Disney, because I know you’re a big Disney guy. What is your favorite ride?
Pirates of the Caribbean, no question.
Break that down for me. Why do you like that best?
I think that’s the best example of everything that Disney does so well. The attention to detail, the storyline, everything coming together in perfect synthesis.
I’ve got to think that Team Space Mountain is going to be furious about that. What would you say to them?
It’s up there. I don’t want them to take that comment too hard. Space Mountain has a place in my heart, too. I love Space Mountain. It’s a little rough on me though. I’m kind of tall so it’s a little rough on the knees, but hey, I love it though.
Well said. So the team gets off to a hot start but has been a little up and down since then. But you have won four in a row. Do you feel like you’re playing the type of ball you want to be playing heading into the postseason?
I do. I actually feel, right now, we’re playing the best ball of the season. We’re very focused on both ends and we haven’t really played like this in the sense there have been so few lulls throughout the past four games. Even when we were playing really well, we would play teams pretty close. We would let team back in games, we would have to play from behind. But the past four we’ve been in control for the most part of the game.
It seems like you’re a perfect fit for Portland, not just on the court but off it, almost to the point that it feels like you’ve been there forever, when in reality, you were just traded there last summer. Did you know at the time how good of a match this was going to be?
It’s funny, when I was playing in Phoenix, Channing Frye, who had been in Portland, told me if I visited there, if I went there, I was just going to love it. And I was a little reluctant to believe him just because Channing talks a lot of stuff. But it turns out he’s been 100 percent right. I can’t believe how perfectly the fit has been. It’s a bizarre city, I’m weird as hell. It’s a match made in heaven.
We talk about this almost every single day on and off the air: weird is good. Weird is different. As you look back over your career, who are some of the weirdest guys you’ve played with?
Channing would definitely have to be one of them. I love that guy. He’s into comics just as much as I am, weird movies that you’ve never heard of, all kinds of stuff like that. He holds an annual kickball tournament in Portland every year. My vet was Shaq, and that’s a cool guy but he’s also weird.
Speaking of movies, you were the only Blazer who could name all Seven Dwarfs. How much does it disappoint you that some of the other guys couldn’t even name one?
It is a little heartbreaking. When my contract comes up I’m definitely going to have to search around the league and find that kindred soul who can name all seven. I think that’s going to be a huge breaking point for me.
They couldn’t dig deep? They can’t get Grumpy?
I know, it hurts. I don’t really want to think about it, honestly.
I won’t bring it up again. From a basketball standpoint your coaches, your teammates rave about your game and your attitude and how much better you’ve made them. Terry Stotts has been doing some lobbying for you as the league’s most improved player. You’re not a guy looking to hype yourself but what does that mean to you to hear that from your coach and your teammates?
That gave me so much confidence to go out there and even play better. That’s a beautiful thing about the situation I’m in in Portland. I feel very comfortable, I feel like I have complete freedom out there. And in that situation it’s easy for me to perform.
Was it like that in Phoenix?
It was, but I think it’s different when you’re one or two years in the league. With that injury I wasn’t quite as sure of myself, I lost eight inches off my vertical. It was a combination of factors in Phoenix. I just didn’t have my mind right.
Did you really lose eight inches off your vertical?
Yeah, that’s true. When I had the bulging disk and pinched nerve in my back, I just lost all of my athleticism which, back then especially, was a huge component of my game, couldn’t run up and down the court as quickly. I remember one moment specifically. My third year in preseason I caught the ball off one of Steve’s (Nash} passes and and saw, I think, Tyler Hansbrough under the basket. And I was like “Oh, I’m going to dunk this. I’m going to put him in a bucket.” And I went up and he pinned it right against the backboard and I’m like “What’s going on?”
That’s got to mess with your head, right?
Yeah. There were moments, especially right after the injury, where I was like “Am I not as good? Am I bad at basketball?” It is tough. That said, I had good teammates around me, I had people, good support staff keeping my head up. I just tried to keep working at it.
Nothing against Psycho T — I guess it’s one thing if Dwight Howard does it — but if Psycho T does that maybe it causes to question yourself a little bit. You mention a back and a pinched nerve. Maybe your situation is not the same, but when you see Tiger Woods and what he’s dealing with right now and he needs a discectomy and he swings a golf club for a living, what do you think he’s dealing with physically?
You know, I’m not sure. Unfortunately I’ve never had that many women throw themselves at me, so I don’t think our situations are really comparable.
I don’t think anybody has. The year is so long and when things aren’t going well you’ve got to find a way to deal with it. You had a great tweet after a loss to Charlotte. You wrote “Rough one tonight but got to focus on the next one and Goonies on ABC Fam right now. Never Say Die. Rip City.” Is watching Goonies one of the secrets to getting over a tough loss.
Oh, yes. For sure. There are a lot of good life lessons in that movie. Obviously The Goonies stick together, people don’t always believe in them but they never give up, never say die.
Before you go, who is your favorite Goonie?
My favorite Goonie has to be Data or Mouth. First of all, I think Mouth is definitely Wesley Matthews of our team. Data is probably Nic. I think Mikey would have to be LA because he’s the heart of the team. I would be Chunk.
I was going to say, I thought you were a Chunk guy.
Yeah. Oh, I love Chunk. He claims he saw Michael Jackson, that scene where he’s talking about he’s in a movie theater and he started throwing up and making everybody else throw up. That’s classic stuff right there.
What about Bran?
Bran, that’s rough. Might be Coach Stotts.
How about Sloth?
Sloth? Oh man, I don’t know if I want to put Sloth on anybody. Might be Joel Freeland.
You’ve got an interesting relationship with a number of mascots around the league. It seems like guys don’t want to deal with it or think about it, but you have relationships. How did that start?
You know, it started because I was getting a little abuse from mascots and I really didn’t want to be that guy that was just taking that sitting down, laying on my back. I knew at some point I had to start fighting back. I don’t know if it’s the hair, I look a little goofy, sound a little goofy but i was just a bull’s eye for mascots, So I was like, enough of that, I’m going to go on the aggressive. That doesn’t make grammatical sense, but I think you get the gist.
Makes sense to me. Did that start with the mascot in Detroit? Was that the first time? You guys got into it once.
That’s happened before but that’s the first time that I had to respond. I wasn’t going to take that from him.
It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…
Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…
… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.
Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.
Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.
Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consolation prize.
PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers saw both a seven-game homestand and a five-game winning streak come to an end with a 110-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Thursday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, the win was Toronto’s first in Portland since the 2006-2007 season, ending Portland’s seven-game home winning streak versus the NBA’s lone Canadian squad.
“Toronto is a good team, I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’re a very good team and there’s a reason why they’re the second-best team or have the second-best record in the East. I thought we were close — obviously the first quarter getting behind (14) — but they shot the ball extremely well.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the second week of November. Portland is now 24-26 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The win moves the Raptors to 34-16 and is their 13th victory in their last 14 games.
While it wasn’t a wire-to-wire victory for the road team, the Trail Blazers’ lone lead came after less than a minute had elapsed in the first quarter. The Raptors would take a 14-point lead by the end of the quarter.
“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough, especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them” said Damian Lillard. “They shot the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that allowed them to get themselves going and start believing. You have to take your hat off to them, they;re a really good team and they brought a real challenge to us. Hopefully the next time we play them we’ll come out and have a better start.”
In a trend that would continue for the majority of the night, every time the Trail Blazers would succeed in cutting into the Raptors’ lead, Toronto, usually led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were always able answer with a few timely baskets or defensive play to keep Portland at bay. Portland had a chance to cut Toronto’s lead to three with 35 seconds to play after a Lillard steal, but CJ McCollum couldn’t get the midrange shot on the ensuing fastbreak to fall.
“It’s a shot I hit nine out of 10, easily,” said McCollum. “Left it a little short. Can’t happen. End of the game, that’s a big possession, open shot, open look. I hit that then it’s a three-point game, 36 second left, don’t need to foul, we can play it out. It’s a good learning experience.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored just six points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half before finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. His first three-pointer, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter, made him just the third player in NBA history to make at least 125 three-pointers in each of his first four season. Lillard also added 11 assists for his 12th double-double of the season.
McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to finish with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. Allen Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Gerald Henderson added 10 to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers. Henderson’s ninth point Thursday night gave him 6,000 points for his career.
Portland forward Maurice Harkless started Thursday’s game in place of Noah Vonleh, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and finished with two points, two points, two blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.
Toronto’s starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points on 21-of-44 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds. Portland native Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each scored 12 points off the bench.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the first time in nearly three weeks to take on the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm.
The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…
Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.
CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”
When did you find out you were selected?
CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”
Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.
CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”
What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?
CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”
You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”
What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.
CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”
I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?
CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”
A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?
CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”
You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”